Job is the New Testament example of a persevering saint. James 5:11b says, “You have heard of the perseverance of Job.” How did he persevere? He persevered the same way everyone perseveres—by maintaining faith in God. Twice Satan predicted he would curse God, and at one point his wife even told him to do so (Job 1:9-11, 2:5, 9). He rebuked his wife saying:
“You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (2:10a).
Basically, he said, “As readily as we accept God’s blessings, we must also accept the trials.” Then he succinctly described what it means to persevere when he said:
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (13:15a).
He declared that no matter what happened to him, he would maintain his faith in God.
Be Encouraged Comparing Yourself with Job
Comparing ourselves with Job can be discouraging. Who wants to think they must endure trials as well as he did? We should be encouraged though because he was far from perfect. Trials bring us closer to perfection, which means we are not yet perfect. Sin has affected every part of us, including the way we respond to trials. Job is an example of this.
James 5:11 says, “You have heard of the perseverance (or patience) of Job,” but did he look patient? Did he remain calm, speaking up only to give praise to God? Did he “count it all joy” when experiencing his trials, or did he express frustration and even criticism of God, regarding his suffering?
Job’s Criticisms of God
9:23—“If the scourge slays suddenly, He laughs at the plight of the innocent.”
This is a strong accusation. He said God mocks the pleas of those killed.
21:4—“As for me, is my complaint against man? And if it were, why should I not be impatient?”
He said his argument was with God and that he had every reason to be upset.
21:9—“The houses [of the wicked] are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.”
He said God is unjust, because He does not punish evildoers.
21:17—“How often is the lamp of the wicked put out? How often does their destruction come upon them, the sorrows God distributes in His anger?”
He said the wicked live long lives and do not experience the suffering that God inflicts on others.
24:12—“The dying groan in the city, and the souls of the wounded cry out; yet God does not charge [those responsible] with wrong.”
He brought two accusations against God. First, he claimed God was unconcerned with people’s suffering. Second, he maintained God did not punish those responsible.
His final speech to his friends oozed with pride as he described his goodness and innocence:
31:35—“Oh, that I had one to hear me! Here is my mark. Oh, that the Almighty would answer me, that my Prosecutor had written a book!”
He felt so entitled to hear from God that he challenged Him to write out the accusations against him.
31:36—“Surely I would carry [any accusation] on my shoulder, and bind it on me like a crown.”
He thought the accusations against him were so few, he would be happy to wear them for everyone to see.
31:37—“I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince I would approach Him.”
He was so confident in his righteousness that he would tell God everything he had done. When God was on Mount Sinai “the people trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, ‘You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.’” (Exodus 20:18b–19). Job on the other hand claimed he would boldly approach God.
31:38–40—“If my land cries out against me, and its furrows weep together; If I have eaten its fruit without money, or caused its owners to lose their lives; then let thistles grow instead of wheat, and weeds instead of barley. The words of Job are ended.”
Job said he was so innocent that even the land he owned could not bring an accusation against him! What did his friends say to him after this? Job 32:1 says: “So these three men ceased answering Job because he was righteous in his own eyes.” They knew they could say nothing else to him, because of the way he viewed himself. Luke 18:9 says the religious leaders “trusted in themselves that they were righteous.” He was dangerously close to becoming like them, but God loved him enough He would not let this pride remain in his heart.
God Humbled Job
God questioned him in chapters 38 and 39, and after that:
40:3–5—“Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; yes, twice, but I will proceed no further.’”
Things have changed considerably from the last time he spoke. He went from:
- “Righteous in his own eyes” to “vile”
- Declaring his innocence to wishing he would have “[put his] hand over [his] mouth”
Job spent much of the book wanting an audience with God, but when that opportunity came, it did not go the way he anticipated. Maybe we are like him, and we want an audience with God. Perhaps our suffering has made us feel mistreated, and we want to bring our accusations against God.
If we start to feel that way, we should remember this account with him. If we were given our day in court with God, our experience would be no different than his. We would move from “righteous in our own eyes” to “vile,” and from declaring our innocence to wishing we would have remained silent.
Two Lessons From Job
1. Job Provides Encouragement
At times he questioned, criticized, and accused, but he was still a persevering saint. This is not meant to promote sin or disrespect toward God, but it demonstrates persevering through trials does not require perfection.
While it is important to read the victories of great men such as Job, Noah, Abraham, and David, it is also important to read about the times they stumbled. Why? So we can look down on them with disgust, and become proud when we persevere? No. Quite the opposite. Every Christian stumbles, and when that happens to us, we can be encouraged it even happened to the Heroes of the Faith. Trials test our faith and their accounts remind us that being a Christian does not mean passing every test.
2. Job Demonstrates Repentance
God asked him more questions in chapters 40 and 41. Then he spoke again:
42:1–6—Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; you said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job felt “vile” and then he “[abhorred]” himself. This produced something wonderful—his repentance. His example also teaches that if we sin during a trial we must repent. Should we act like him regarding our criticisms or accusations, we should act like him regarding our repentance.
Discussion Questions to Answer in Comments Section
- What do your questions, criticisms, and/or frustrations toward God during trials reveal about your faith?
- Describe the changes in Job from the beginning of his trials to the end. What good did God produce in him?
- Do you see other ways Job’s example can encourage/instruct us?